Glenn In­quiry de­tects mood for ac­tion

Every­one can play their part in shift­ing the cul­ture be­hind New Zealand’s alarm­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence statis­tics, guest colum­nist and for­mer Supreme Court judge Bill Wil­son QC says. Wil­son is chair­man of the Glenn In­quiry, an in­de­pen­dent ef­fort to peel back

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

he newly pub­lished Peo­ple’s Re­port is pro­vid­ing a ral­ly­ing point for con­fronting our un­ac­cept­able rates of fam­ily vi­o­lence.

Many have been shocked by the un­var­nished ac­counts from peo­ple hurt by child abuse or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. But the raw­ness of these sto­ries seems to have gal­vanised peo­ple.

Scores have been in touch need­ing help or of­fer­ing it, or with ideas and en­cour­age­ment.

Many are des­per­ate to be heard.

The re­port aimed to give voice to real-life ex­pe­ri­ences and make them the touch­stone for rec­om­men­da­tions to come later, in a Blue­print for Change. But the mes­sage and di­rec­tion are clear.

New Zealand needs a pro­found cul­ture shift if it is go­ing to re­verse its abuse statis­tics and pro­tect, save and re­store lives.

Peo­ple af­fected by abuse say it is still re­ally hard to es­cape an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.

They want a na­tional strat­egy that adopts zero tol­er­ance of vi­o­lence, puts chil­dren first and ad­dresses poverty and binge drink­ing.

Ed­u­ca­tion, early in­ter­ven­tion, long-last­ing sup­port and reli­able fund­ing would also be part of it.

The courts are crit­i­cised for mak­ing things worse, along with some re­sponses from Child Youth and Fam­ily and Work and In­come.

Some may ques­tion this fin­ger point­ing at gov­ern­ment agen­cies when it is in­di­vid­ual per­pe­tra­tors who in­flict the phys­i­cal harm.

But the voices in the re­port also point to a poverty of spirit in New Zealand that ac­cepts vi­o­lence as nor­mal. This needs to be con­fronted.

Amer­i­can Judge Learned Hand once said lib­erty lies in the hearts of men and women – ‘‘when it dies there, no con­sti­tu­tion, no law, no court can save it’’.

The same ap­plies to dig­nity and re­spect within our famil- ies. In­deed those who shared their sto­ries want peo­ple to know what a healthy re­la­tion­ship looks like. Peo­ple do not have to wait for the Blue­print to start step­ping up.

Fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights and dig­nity are not sus­pended when we cross the thresh­old or close the cur­tains. Ev­ery­body can con­trib­ute to keep­ing these val­ues alive.

The peo­ple in the re­port told how small kind­nesses of­ten pro­vided a life-line or a turn­ing point – all of us are ca­pa­ble of this.

I be­lieve we have it in us to de­sign a more reli­able, re­spect­ful sys­tem that re­sponds swiftly and co­he­sively when peo­ple need help.

It would en­sure vic­tims are not re-trau­ma­tised, and would bol­ster in­di­vid­ual and com­mu­nity ef­forts.

As the in­quiry con­tin­ues with its work, I chal­lenge every­one to ask them­selves if their own re­la­tion­ships are mu­tu­ally re­spect­ful: ‘‘ Am I safe? Is my be­hav­iour safe? Are my chil­dren safe?’’

I chal­lenge vot­ers to tell elec­tion can­di­dates that they ex­pect uni­fied lead­er­ship to bring about a cul­ture shift.

To pro­fes­sion­als, con­sider whether you are ad­e­quately trained in fam­ily vi­o­lence.

To front­line work­ers, be ex­tra mind­ful about how you show re­spect for those you serve.

To every­one who wants a car­ing vi­o­lence-free so­ci­ety, make the im­pact on our chil­dren the acid test of what is ac­cept­able be­hav­iour.

For those who feel fright­ened or in dan­ger, there are peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions you can turn to for help.

For­mer Supreme Court Judge Bill Wil­son

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